UFC, EliteXC Moving Up In DVD Market

June 30, 2008

Video Business has a synopsis on the increasing market for MMA-centric DVD’s. This market has been a solid area for DVD distributors and retailers for quite a while but some in the industry are looking for sales to increase with the recent network exposure of mixed martial arts:

Though DVD sales of 10,000 to 25,000 units are typical for MMA releases, primetime pushes might portend a more robust forecast for the gut-busting genre.

“Whenever you move a show from cable to the main networks, it obviously expands your exposure to mainstream audiences,” says Nick Lamer, marketing VP at Image Entertainment. “I don’t recall seeing a sport grow at such a rate as MMA. It’s poised to outdo pro wrestling,” Lamer says.

Out performing wrestling on DVD may be a bit of hyperbole, but there is definitely room for growth. Much like in the TV market, the two main players in the DVD market are UFC and EliteXC. The UFC has a much longer track record in the DVD market and this experience and brand longevity is something they tout to retailers when competing for shelf space.

What’s proven is the longevity of the UFC brand at retail stores,” says Don Gold, executive VP of entertainment for UFC, whose DVDs are mainly distributed by First Look Studios. “Retailers trust the brand, and they order accordingly. We’ve put out more than 50 DVDs since the company was formed in 1993 and have sold millions of units in North America alone. Our DVDs include bonus footage and fights not seen on our pay-per-view shows.”

EliteXC looks to challenge the UFC’s authority in this area. The company recently had a Top 10 Sports DVD hit with their EliteXC: Renegade DVD. EliteXC looks to build on that in November, when Image Entertainment will release the three-hour EliteXC Saturday Night Fights, broadcast on CBS 5/31, as a two-disc set, including fighter bios and behind-the-scenes action.

All Female Fight League Set for TV Debut

June 30, 2008

PRLog (Press Release) – Jun 26, 2008 – Los Angeles, CA – A new reality series featuring Amanda Lucas and eleven other female Mixed Martial Artists is being produced by Los Angeles based production company One Giant Leap Media. Promoter Belinda Dunne brought together two teams (USA vs Australasia) for the continental ‘Princesses of Pain’ Championship and the cameras were there to capture all of the drama, including Lucas’ mixed martial arts debut in Auckland on May 31st.

These bouts feature female fighters from all walks of life, skilled in jiu-jitsu, boxing, judo, kickboxing, and wrestling. The contests are full-on fights by highly trained athletes drawing crowds from all over the world. The unique aspect and controversial element of the fights have single-handedly transformed these ladies into America’s newest sports heroes, and have catapulted these competitions into the limelight as an athletic, social and cultural phenomenon sweeping the nation and world by storm.

Led by Team Captain Lana Stefanic, Team USA consists of Amanda Lucas, Tamara Parks, Shawn Tamaribuchi, Van Do, Katie Meehan and Cindy Hales.

Team Australasia is led by Captain Tony Green and consisted of Nicole Kavanagh, Margaux La Trobe, Leighann Banham, Mandy Stewart, Michelle Preston and Fiona Muxlow.

Executive Producer Andrea Stockert is aware of the controversial nature of the footage and welcomes a discussion. “My ultimate vision was to explore why these women do this, and why we all have such visceral reactions when we see them put on the gloves and hit each other. As an outsider, it looks incredibly brutal and uncontrolled- but once you understand the game (and the women) you begin to see it all so differently – it becomes an art form,” comments Stockert.

“The footage has already garnered a lot of interest from cable networks and agencies” says Stockert, “and we are now taking the steps to find the right home for the series. We’re looking forward to finding the right match.”

More on ASR's Virtue Expo

June 30, 2008

The Orange country Business journal reports:

San Juan Capistrano-based Action Sports Retailer has a new baby.

The tradeshow company said it’s launching a smaller show called Virtue aimed at edgy lifestyle brands focused on mixed martial arts, freestyle motocross, tattoo culture, art and music. The show will be held in September at the Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego, which will be across the street from the bigger ASR Expo happening at the same time.

Andy Tompkins, ASR’s group show director, said mixed martial arts, which also involves punching and wrestling, is “one of the fastest growing sports in America.” “We’ve had strong interest from both the exhibitor and retail side to offer a trade event for this emerging market,” Tompkins said.

ASR typically draws more than 18,000 people, including 6,600 buyers and 500 media types.

The show has felt the impact of a soft economy, with a few skate shoe brands pulling out citing schedule conflicts and other reasons.

Looks like the addition of the MMA brands came at a very fortuitous time. Having a smaller than usual main event should also lead to increased exposure for the MMA brands at Virtue.

Lyoto Machida: Marketing Black Hole?

June 30, 2008

Michael Rome over at Bloody Elbow has a good piece on the Lyoto Machida problem:

It’s not going to be easy to book Machida’s fights going forward. The top guys have very little to gain by fighting him. If they lose a boring fight, it’s terrible for their reputation and drawing power, and if they beat him, the win doesn’t really do much besides boost their credibility among hardcore MMA fans. Even Quinton Jackson has given some signals of late that he is not interested in this fight. The other day he made it clear that he only wants to fight guys that come in and fight, not guys who run away.

Rome does an excellent job of summarizing the conundrum that the UFC faces in trying to book Machida in the future. A Machida win, even over the big names in the division, aren’t going to make his “elusive” style any more appealing to a fanbase that has been conditioned to embrace an “all action, all the time” fight experience. Most of the current UFC fanbase cut their MMA teeth on a Forrest Griffin vs Stephan Bonnar fight where neither guy was in any way being “elusive”. One of the comments in Mike’s thread very aptly described the situation (and Machida by extension) as a marketing black hole.

The 10 Most Important Fighters to the Business of Mixed Martial Arts Part I

June 30, 2008

The mixed martial arts business has seen its ups and downs during its short history. This list is intended to capture the fighters who had the biggest influence in creating interest in the sport and drawing money.

This list is not intended to be a simple listing of the fighters who drew the most money. If that were the sole criterion, the list would look significantly different. Rather, this list is designed to capture the fighters who were most important in shaping the business. Fighters who sparked increases in business and paved the way for bigger things are given additional weight even if they drew less money at the time.

The four fighters who came the closest to making the list but fell short were Masakatsu Funaki, Wanderlei Silva, Matt Hughes and Kid Yamamoto.

10. Mirko Cro Cop

Mirko Cro Cop, Fedor Emelianenko and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira battled for supremacy as Pride’s top heavyweight fighter. While Cro Cop lost to both Fedor and Nogueira, he was the biggest attraction of the three. His style and cold demeanor created tremendous interest in his early MMA fights against Japanese pro wrestlers.

The highlight of this early period was the 71,000 fans and over $7 million gate for his fight with Kazushi Sakuraba. Later fights with Wanderlei Silva and Fedor Emelianenko sold out the Pride home base Saitama Super Arena. Cro Cop also showed ratings juice, including a 22.9 rating for a fight with Mark Hunt.

9. Randy Couture

If Couture were younger, or if the UFC boom had started earlier, Couture would occupy a higher spot on the list. But the surprising truth is that for all Couture accomplished in the sport, he only had five big business fights.

The first was his fight with Tito Ortiz, which drew a strong (for the time) 90,000 buys. The second and third were his second and third fights with Chuck Liddell. The second Liddell fight drew a $2.57M gate and 280,000 buys, while the third drew a $3.44M gate and 400,000 buys. The fourth big fight was his return from retirement, where his victory over Tim Sylvia drew 19,079 fans, a $3.01M live gate and 540,000 buys. Finally, he did an impressive $3.30M gate and 520,000 buys for relative unknown Gabriel Gonzaga.

Randy Couture’s fighting improvement with age has been remarkable, but his rise as a drawing card was even greater. It will be interesting to see what kind of business he is able to do for a fight with Fedor Emelianenko if the fight can get made.

8. Hidehiko Yoshida

Many American fight fans don’t understand the Japanese fight business very well, and as a result Yoshida’s significance is generally overlooked. Yoshida is the second biggest Japanese drawing card in history behind only Kazushi Sakuraba.

Yoshida’s early wins against Don Frye and Kiyoshi Tamura and his strong performance against Wanderlei Silva in 2003 turned him into a star. From that point on he proved to be both a live attendance draw and a fighter that could move TV ratings.

Yoshida drew a 35,000 fan sellout for his fight against Rulon Gardner, a 43,000 fan sellout for his 2005 fight with Wanderlei Silva, a 35,000 fan sellout for his fight with Naoya Ogawa, a 43,000 fan sellout for his fight with Yosuke Nishijima, and a near sellout of 34,000 fans for his fight with Mirko Cro Cop. Box office figures are harder to come by in Japan than in the United States, but each of those shows are estimated to have done in the range of $4M to $6M gates.

Yoshida also drew a 28.7 rating for his Shockwave 2003 fight against Royce Gracie, a 25.3 rating for his fight with Mark Hunt, a 25.9 rating for his fight against Rulon Gardner, a 24.5 rating for his 2005 fight with Wanderlei Silva, a 25.5 rating for his fight with Naoya Ogawa, and a 22 rating for his fight with Yosuke Nishijima.

7. Nobuhiko Takada

Takada wasn’t much of a fighter, but that doesn’t diminish his importance to Japanese MMA. Following his success as the top star of the UWFI pro wrestling promotion, Takada was the key to the early Pride shows. While those shows didn’t do the business that later Pride shows did, without Takada there would have been no Pride Fighting Championships.

Takada also played a role in establishing the New Year’s Eve fighting tradition in Japan. He headlined the 2000 Inoki Bom Ba Ye show in a pro wrestling match teaming with Keiji Muto against Don Frye and Ken Shamrock. That show drew a sellout 42,756 fans and paved the way for Pride and K-1 to run New Year’s Eve spectaculars.

Takada even showed box office juice at the end of his career. His final fight against Kiyoshi Tamura drew a sellout 52,228 fans. That was well past the point where even the most die hard Takada faithful had confidence in him as a quality fighter.

There are many fighters who drew more money than Takada, but it’s hard to imagine what the MMA landscape would look like without him.

6. Bob Sapp

Bob Sapp is the biggest television ratings draw in the history of MMA. Sapp’s unique size and charisma created tremendous interest for his fights in Japan. His biggest fights in Japan drew viewership levels that dwarfed the highest MMA ratings in the United States, despite Japan being a significantly smaller country.

The rise of Sapp began in 2002, and an MMA fight against Yoshihiro Takayama drew a 24.5 rating. He continued to be a ratings bonanza in 2003, peaking with a 42.5 rating for a kickboxing bout against Akebono on New Year’s Eve.

Sapp’s ratings power continued in the subsequent years. An MMA bout with Sumiyabazar Dolgolsuren did a 33.2 rating. A mixed rules bout with Jerome LeBanner did a 28.6. Kickboxing against Tatsufumi Tomihara netted a 22.7 rating, kickboxing against Hong Man Choi did a 27.6 rating, and an MMA fight against Bobby Ologun did a 19.3.

Sapp was a pivotal figure in the rise of MMA as a major television attraction in Japan. However, the focus on freak show attractions like Sapp ultimately did harm to the industry over the long haul as well.

CONTINUED: The 10 Most Important Fighters to the Business of MMA Part II

UFC 86 Nearing Sellout

June 30, 2008

Dave Meltzer reports on F4wOnline.com:

Saturday night’s UFC in Las Vegas is almost completely sold out. They just opened up closed-circuit for the overflow at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in the Pacific Ballroom and tickets went on sale yesterday

That is a very strong showing for the UFC. The general lack of heat between Rampage and Forrest Griffin had worried some about how UFC 86 would perform at the gate and on PPV. The numbers also are impressive because the card lacks a solid sub-main as a draw or any overly attractive undercard fights. If the numbers hold up compared to similar Vegas events they are likely looking at a gate in the $3.5 to $4.5 million range.

MMA on CBS as Sponsorship Rainmaker

June 30, 2008

Much has been made of the boost that MMA will receive from network exposure but the more immediate boost can seen in the fighter’s bottom line. MMA being on network television has lead to a vast increase in sponsorship opportunities for some of the fighters appearing on the 7/26 card. MMAPayout.com has spoken with one of the fighters that will appear on the 7/26 card and this particular fighter looks to make 10 to 20 times their normal level of sponsorship money. If all the sponsorship goals are met, the sponsorship money should also slightly exceed the show money for the fighter.

Sponsorship money is key for the EliteXC fighters. Without PPV, the big money for fighters just isn’t there yet. EliteXC receives a license fee from CBS to cover production costs, which covers some things like salaries, but with MMA basically being reality programming for the network it isn’t an exorbitant amount. Certain folks may have problems with EliteXC , but more network shows are a good thing because they mean more and better money for the fighters.

Strikeforce 6/27 Aftermath

June 28, 2008

The attendance for the show has to be looked at as a success. I felt that anything over and above the 6500 range would be a good draw, and announced attendance for the show was 7,448. That is a strong number, indicating they are doing a good job of retaining fans even when the bigger names aren’t on the card.

Building the company so that the brand is the draw is vitally important for Strikeforce. Frank Shamrock only has one fight left on his contract and Cung Le’s status for fighting is uncertain due to his burgeoning movie career. Mike Afromowitz of Strikeforce said he expects Le to fight again in 08, but it would seem that Le is going to be on a reduced schedule from here on due to his other opportunities. The success of this show at the gate has to bode well for the promotion’s ability to draw well in the absence of these two fighters.

Josh Thomson came away with the victory over Gilbert Melendez in the evening’s main event. Thomson entered the contest the lesser star of the two fighters, so Strikeforce has to hope this win will give him a credibility boost. Gilbert Melendez came into the fight the bigger name, and the question now is where he goes from here. There is a possible immediate rematch with Thomson, but the better idea may be a slow build to a rematch 2 or 3 fights down the line, giving Melendez a chance to re-establish momentum with audience. Losing two in a row to Thomson would have to hurt Melendez’s ability to draw. Delaying the rematch also gives Coker time to hype the fight. Pairing the two against differing fighters on the same card may be a way of building heat for a re-match by the end of the year or early next year.

Other efforts to build up younger fighters on the card were mixed. Much hype before the card centered on World Combat League veteran Raymond Daniels and his attempt to translate his excellent striking abilities to an MMA environment. Judging from the fight Daniels is lost in translation as he was barely able to establish any kind of offense in what was generally seen as a on-sided affair. While Cung Le has been successful in translating his talent from another discipline, Strikeforce’s moves to use strikers Brian Schwartz and Daniels have been failures by any objective measure. One bright spot may be Billy Evangelista extending his unbeaten streak on the card.

MMAPayout on Inside MMA: Regulation and Lobbying

June 28, 2008

The complete episode is available here.

MMAPayout.com on Inside MMA – 6/27

June 27, 2008

I’ll have a segment on tonight’s edition of Inside MMA discussing the UFC’s move into politics in New York and Washington DC.

Also on tonight’s episode, Bas and Kenny review HDNet Fights Presents: SportFight XXIII: Heated Rivals. They will be joined by EliteXC Lightweight Champ KJ Noons, UFC Heavyweight Justin “The Insane One” McCully, and Women’s fighter Debi Purcell.

The show airs at 9:30PM EST on HDNet. It is followed by the live broadcast of HDNet Fights Presents: Strikeforce: Melendez v. Thompson.

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